Protecting your plants from indoor pests

Published 8:54 pm Thursday, November 4, 2010

You can recognize the mealybug, shown here with ants, by its white, fluffy wax coating. They typically appear on the underside of leaves.

Outdoor plants aren’t the only ones that you have to worry about getting damaged by creepy-crawly things.

Houseplants can suffer from pests and diseases just like outdoor plants. Even the most experienced gardener can have problems with houseplants at some point. The key is to identify and treat the issue before it becomes a severe problem. Note that if you keep your houseplants outdoors for part of the year, they may be exposed to pests and diseases from your yard. Carefully inspect your plants while they’re outside and make sure they are pest- and disease-free when you bring them in to your home.

The most common culprits causing problems amongst your houseplants are most likely aphids, white flies, mealy bugs, spider mites and scales.


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Aphids are tiny bugs that live and feed in groups. They can be different colors including white, green, brown or even orange. Look for them especially on new plant growth and young flowers. An easy way to treat aphids is with a blast of high-pressure water from a hose.


You can recognize the mealybug by its white, fluffy wax coating. They typically appear on the underside of leaves. Try using a little alcohol on a cotton ball and applying it to the mealybugs. The alcohol will penetrate the wax and eventually kill the pests.


Mites are very small insects that can form a thin web over the plant. An affected plant’s leaves may appear spotted, and the flowers may start to look unhealthy. Try blasting off the mites with water.


Scales appear as sticky areas on leaves and stems. If there are tiny dots that you can remove with your fingers, you may have scales. Remove them by hand and carefully monitor the plant for more outbreaks.


Whiteflies are very small flying insects that will cluster around a plant and fly away when you touch the plant. Use a natural or organic pesticide to control them.

For another way to get rid of these pests, try diluting a very small amount of Castille soap in water and wash the leaves of your plants. Depending on the plant, you can also choose to cut off parts of the plant that have a serious infestation of bugs.